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NASA sets new date for first launchpad test of its mega moon rocket

NASA will have a third go at conducting a launchpad test of its next-generation moon rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, April 9.

This is despite the emergence of another technical issue that NASA is now working to resolve.

NASA's mega moon rocket on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA’s next-generation “mega moon rocket” on the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA

Two previous attempts over the past week to begin the so-called “wet dress rehearsal” were called off due to the discovery of technical problems, the first one due to a fan issue linked to the rocket’s mobile launcher, and the second due to a stuck valve on ground equipment at the pad.

On Thursday, NASA reported the discovery of another issue, this time regarding helium purge pressure on the upper stage engine. After a troubleshooting process, engineers managed to establish a normal helium purge, but they’re continuing to investigate what caused the issue.

All being well, the two-day wet dress rehearsal will begin at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday at 2:40 p.m. ET.

The exercise will involve NASA engineers filling the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with fuel before conducting a mock countdown.

If all goes to plan and no more technical issues appear, NASA will be able to prepare for the first launch of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, hopefully in the next couple of months.

The uncrewed Artemis I mission will send Orion on a fly-by of the moon in a comprehensive test of its spaceflight systems. Artemis II will fly the same route but with a crew on board, while the highly anticipated Artemis III mission, currently slated for no earlier than 2024, will put the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface.

It looks like NASA needs to catch a break with the long-awaited launchpad test of its next-generation rocket. Alongside the technical issues of recent days, the date for the first test attempt also had to be rescheduled after four lightning strikes hit the launchpad’s lightning towers.

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